Photo credit: Sandrine Assouline/Aide et Action
Being born as a girl in India still means being deprived of education. Aide et Action is therefore developing the Enlight project to support young girls in very vulnerable situations. Nearly 300 of them, from the most marginalized communities, are currently hosted in our centres to receive support courses and personalized guidance.
About ten kilometres from Chennai, as the buildings are spaced apart, as nature reclaims its rights in an ultra-urbanised India, live some of the poorest and most marginalised communities. This stigmatised caste, systematically accused of theft and felony, lives far from the main roads in a hamlet, composed of a few scattered huts, all made of odds and ends, metal sheets and pieces of scrap metal accumulated over the years. At best, these small houses are no bigger than a few square metres... most of them are made up of a single room. You eat, wash and sleep on the floor. The lucky ones, especially those who have real jobs as teachers or doctors, have a bigger house, usually with an extra room, a small kitchen and sometimes a television. " Here the parents do not have stable jobs. They work from day to day, mostly in construction. They receive state aid, barely €2.70 per day per adult. They don't have enough to live with dignity. "Albert Bosgo, Project Manager for Aide et Action, who launched the Enlight project around Chennai, explains. " In India, there are stigmatised and discriminated castes, but being a girl in these castes is worse than anything. "he insists.
To educate a girl is to educate an entire nation
Hence Aide et Action's idea to encourage young girls, who are particularly vulnerable, to go and stay in school, in order to get the best education, the only way out of poverty. However, getting them to come to school, to stay there and learn was not an easy task. The project started by convincing the communities that education was more important than anything else. In particular, meetings were held once or twice a month to talk to families, especially mothers who were more sensitive to these issues and more involved with their children. " We take advantage of this to organise awareness sessions on hygiene and food, the parents ask for more "Albert Bosgo explains. Aide et Action then developed school support clubs for these girls in the village. Twenty to thirty of them are welcomed in the centre from 4:10 pm (end of school) to 6:00 pm, a second group is taken care of from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Two teachers run the centre every evening: Rhajamane, 50, and Sophia Mary, 28. They offer personalised support to the pupils, particularly with a view to getting them to do their homework and giving them further lessons. The girls are regularly assessed. The teachers know their levels and their main difficulties. Individual development plans are set up for each child. There is therefore a real follow-up of these girls, with possible meetings with the teachers for the parents. The educational activity centre also organises medical follow-up for the girls and regularly brings in health professionals.
A way out of poverty, early marriage, pregnancy...
Today, whole families' views on education have changed. Adults and children alike see it as a unique way out of poverty. For young girls, in particular, it is the only way out of the vicious circle that awaits them: poverty, early marriage, pregnancy and a life of misery without any possible training or employment. All of them therefore repeat that they want to study at all costs and already dream of becoming a doctor or a teacher. It is true that few of them will succeed, because these jobs require long studies that they cannot afford. During these few years, from primary to early secondary school, they will nevertheless acquire the basics of education and a knowledge that will change their lives forever, thanks to Aide et Action. Some of them will receive vocational training, others will work at home, but all of them will be aware of the importance of education and the need to send their children to school.